As I grabbed the paintings and photos off the walls of my office at Hedges School, my mind was flooded with the incredible memories from the last nine years.
When you make the decision and commitment to become an educator, you make a way of life choice…it takes your heart and fills your mind with thoughts of continuous improvement.
*How can I make that lesson better?
*Did my students understand the success criteria?
*Do the parents of my students feel connected to my classroom or school?
*How can our team support all of our students in making greater academic gains?
It has been an honor to work with a team of educators who believe in and feel this congruent commitment! Kalispell’s School District #5 has provided me with an extended family who consistently supported me and authentically believed in me before I believe in myself. Throughout the last nine years, I have been provided with the skills, guidance, and the foundation to lead and inspire others to have the ultimate grit to ensure a positive impact for students to strive for academic, behavioral, and social success!
As I close the doors of Hedges School, I pause, take a deep breath, and feel extreme gratitude. Thank you to:
*Casey Bertram for taking a chance on me and mentoring my growth as an educational leader.
*Dan Zorn and Darlene Schottle for nurturing my growth as a leader and seeing my potential beyond the classroom.
*Merisa Murray for believing in and hiring me for my first administrator position as your Assistant Principal. Edgerton School welcomed me with open arms and overwhelmingly supporting my growth!
*Glenda Armstrong, Bill Sullivan, Jen Stein, and Rick Anfenson for your unconditional support, teamwork, and friendship.
*Mark Flatau and Andrea Johnson for your continued guidance through the ups and downs of leading an elementary school.
*Each member of my Hedges Team and Community for providing me with the opportunities to be a classroom teacher, a parent, and your principal. I smile and celebrate our laughs, disagreements, challenges, and successes! My life has been forever changed for the better because of each of you.
Ultimately, thank you to my family. I am grateful for your unconditional love and patience during the long days and filled weekends. You positively joined in the fun for so many of our school events. As we leave the Montana Mountains for the Big State of Texas, I am blessed that we can enjoy this journey together.
Teacher Appreciation Week is upon us and I am compelled to SHOUT OUT and CELEBRATE the most powerful moment I shared with a teacher on my team this school year. The two of us were in my office processing a playground situation with a group of students. The situation among them was escalating outside on the playground and in the lunchroom; however, the disagreements and uncomfortableness among the peers were never represented in the classroom.
Both of us listened intently to the students, seeking first to understand all sides and perspectives… Then, we asked why do you feel this never happens in the classroom. Without hesitation, a student said, (with the others nodding in agreement)
“We always feel safe in our classroom. It is calm. We are relaxed. When we are in there, we don’t think about what else is happening.”
My heart jumped with utter excitement and my head turned immediately toward the teacher in complete admiration of what had been created within the classroom environment. Although we had to still make a plan for eliminating the problems within our common areas, I wanted to yell in celebration of this teacher, “You are a ROCK STAR!!! This is AMAZING and INCREDIBLE!!”
The #BookSnaps below from Principal Kafele’s, The Teacher 50: Critical Questions for Inspiring Classroom Excellence represent who this teacher is and many others are for all students!
As I read and reflect on the powerful impact we have on our students each day, I am truly appreciative of the teams of teachers, principals, and district leaders with whom I have worked with across the country. I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to be an educational leader! #JoyfulLeaders
I have been reflecting on my leadership identity since I watched Baruti Kafele’s video.
- Who am I when I walk into my school building?
- How does my school community see me?
- What does my presence mean to my team?
This intense thought-provoking and inspiring video brought a flood of rushing thoughts to my mind.
What is my leadership identity?
- Positively contagious– Continuously sharing the gratefulness that I feel for the opportunity to learn at high levels in a safe and welcoming environment.
- Encouraging– Consistently leading students and staff to believe in themselves as leaders.
- Approachable– Always a safe place to share ideas, fears, challenges, and celebrations.
- Transparent– Invariably leading with the goals of doing anything and everything to guide our students to reach high levels of success.
What do I want my presence to mean to my community?
How do I want students to see me?
Share an authentic smile and be an inspiring force that leads others to see and reach beyond their potential.
What is your leadership identity?
A few weeks ago, the title of this post was revealed to me as a common practice Kevin Geer expects within his organization. The contagious positive emotion a smile creates motivates us to share it and feel it.
The reality of this happening every day in a school setting made my heart burst with excitement and reflection. If a school fosters and maintains a positive culture you should feel the smile when you walk into the building!
Once our students meet their seats, how can we continue student smiles throughout the day? Below are five guidelines:
- SMILE- Show your students that you LOVE having them in your classroom.
- TRUST- Intentionally take time to develop meaningful relationships with a foundation of authentic trust.
- CELEBRATE- Focus on the positive and praise the behaviors you expect.
- COMMUNICATE- Post and explain learning goals guiding students to clearly understand essential standards.
- COLLABORATE- Welcome parents as a part of the student, teacher, and parent team. Bring parents into the classroom everyday by sharing your story.
Below is a great example of what it takes to continue the positive emotion created from the seven initial smiles shared before students meet their seats!
Educational leaders know that with every student success, it took a team to make it happen.
As I reflected on the successful experiences throughout our first trimester, I took a little more time to evaluate our culture of gratitude. We have worked diligently to create opportunities for our students to demonstrate thankfulness and gratefulness for each other and for their teachers; however, consistent opportunities to express collective gratitude within the team of adults who are guiding our students each day was missing.
While listening to an Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast, I was inspired by how, within his organization, he simply and effectively facilitates a culture of gratitude. During staff meetings, he provides notes and time for team members to write short thank you letters to those who have helped them be successful. Upon hearing this, I was excited about the opportunity to apply this practice!
During our monthly staff meeting last week, this was how we began our meeting. Our team was provided with a paper thank you note and time. As our team began to write their notes, some asked for more! The next day, the feedback was even better as team members openly shared their excitement about receiving notes!
Sometimes the only motivation we need to persevere through the challenges of striving to reach goals are a few words of appreciation. Since Zig Ziglar’s quote below proves to be true, this will be a leadership practice that I will continue!
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.
As you move on through the rest of your day, watch the short video below and think about who is on your team. How do you share your appreciation?
With a bright smile on her face, my oldest daughter presented me with a slightly wrinkled and water damaged Self-Assessment paper. As I began to read through her personal reflection, she quickly asked me if I noticed what her teacher wrote. As my eyes moved down to the bottom of the page, I saw it! A powerful sentence that provided specific feedback and motivation for my daughter to continue to strive to meet teacher expectations and standard proficiency.
As educators, we focus on providing students with clear expectations and specific feedback. When I saw the positive impact of these essential practices conveyed in my own child, I was truly thankful for the time her teacher took to facilitate student reflection and to provide specific feedback. Being intentional with our expectations and devoting time to provide feedback to each student is worth the extra effort!
Specific feedback empowers our students to reflect on their current progress and leads the way to continued achievement.
Thank you to all of the educators who devote their efforts to providing specific information that motivates our students to be lifelong learners who desire continued success.
I knew what to do.
As I finally stopped to sit down at my desk to reflect on what had just occurred, the words above continued to be repeated in my mind… I knew what to do, I can’t believe it- I knew what to do.
A student was brought to my office visibly upset due to an incident on the playground. At first the behavior was quiet as the student shared a few angry words about what happened. Then, without warning, unexpected behavior forced its way throughout my office as the student became physically escalated. This usually smiley and quiet student became unreachable. Immediately, I focused on my past experiences of similar situations and the knowledge shared from our incredible school wide behavior team:
- Stop all noise/talking
- Back completely away from the behavior, reducing negative attention
- Allow the student to find a place within the room to cool down
- Know and be okay with the fact that there is more to this behavior and we are not going to solve this problem today
I am grateful for our school behavior experts! This team consists of our school psychologist, student and family advocate, counselor, social worker, mental health worker, and nurse. These highly skilled educators are leading our team to be trauma informed, empathetic and understanding of student behaviors, and to prevent negative behavior. Ultimately, this team is leading our school away from reactive band-aid solutions and towards the implementation of positive behavior interventions.
Our actions have the opportunity to demonstrate a quiet understanding, leading students to begin to trust.